What must the Heat do to climb out of this 0-1 hole in the NBA Finals?
Network analysts weighed in, in advance of Sunday’s Game 2 (8 p.m., ABC):
▪ TNT’s/NBA TV’s Charles Barkley: “I might break out Kevin Love for two reasons. You’ve got six fouls. He can get hot from three-point range. Joker [Nikola Jokic] has got to guard Kevin out to that three-point line; that might open things up for everybody else.”
Love hasn’t played in the Heat’s past three games.
“Bam Adebayo is so small that he would get in foul trouble if they let him play Joker 1-on-1 all night,” Barkley said. “If they had two or three big guys who could beat the hell out of [Jokic],” that would help.
Barkley said he would play the 6-8 Love alongside 6-9 Adebayo, a starting power rotation tandem that the Heat used from Game 3 of the first round against Milwaukee through Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra replaced Love with the 6-5 Caleb Martin to open Games 6 and 7 of the Celtics series because Boston was using a smaller starting group.
And Spoelstra stuck with Martin as a starter in Game 1 against Denver, despite his three-inch height disadvantage against Nuggets power forward Aaron Gordon.
In the wake of the Heat shooting 33 percent on threes (13 for 39) in Game 1 on Thursday, Barkley said: “We’ve been bragging the last two weeks about how great they’ve been shooting threes. [But] when you miss them, you have to have a Plan B. Maybe go to the basket a little more.
“Max Strus is one of my favorite players; he was 0 for 9 [on threes]. He’s not going to have another game like that in his lifetime. I am going to give them a pass [for Game 1] for having a grueling seven-game series [against Boston].
“I don’t think they can beat the Nuggets, but I’m not going to overreact to one game. That series against the Celtics was emotional.”
But Barkley said “the only chance” the Heat has “got is if Tyler Herro comes back sooner than later. You are going to have to score. Herro is a really good 1-on-1 player. I would bring him off the bench with Kyle Lowry. They play a lot faster with Lowry in the game.”
▪ TNT/NBA TV’s Grant Hill: “Jimmy Butler is going to have to take more than 14 shots. You are going to have to have a superhuman performance. Adebayo is not drawing fouls; he’s a jump shooter.”
Hill said the Nuggets were smart in “putting Aaron Gordon on Butler because [Butler] can’t outmuscle [Gordon] in the paint where Butler likes to operate. Miami has got to make changes in how they attack offensively, have to have more diversity.”
▪ TNT/NBA TV’s Shaquille O’Neal: “You need more ball pressure on Jokic. He’s standing out there and picking them apart.”
▪ ESPN’s Tim Legler: “Denver can break you down so simply by giving the ball to one player [Jokic] and let him figure it out. If you want to play him straight up, he’ll shoot over Bam all night long. If you want to send some traffic his way, he will make the right decision and empower his team.”
▪ ESPN’s JJ Redick: “Butler had the least amount of drives he had all season. He’s got to be aggressive the same way he was aggressive in Game 7. If I’m the Heat, I’m taking a page out of what they did against the Knicks in the second round when they relentlessly targeted Jalen Brunson. There is cumulative effect to attacking smaller players. [Miami has] got to [find a way to] get Jamal Murray on Jimmy Butler.”
▪ ESPN’s Jay Williams: “Nobody can tell me [that Game 1] didn’t give me that vibe of a JV team versus a varsity team physicality wise.” Williams made clear that he wasn’t comparing the skill levels of the teams, only their physicality.
MORE HEAT MEDIA NOTES
▪ Game 1 was viewed in 12.76 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with television sets. That equals about 219,000 local homes — about 33,000 less than watched Game 7 of the Heat-Celtics series.
▪ It’s odd for TV networks to discuss trade possibilities involving a team in the Finals, but ESPN spent a few minutes this week bandying about the possibility of the Heat pursuing Portland guard Damian Lillard, who hasn’t asked for a trade but hasn’t closed the door on the possibility.
“It feels strange to me to talk about a team in the Finals, like the Miami Heat, but the Miami Heat make a lot of sense if Dame were to become available,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said. “They have a number of future first-round picks they can trade. They have a number of interesting young players. It would be a really fascinating opportunity if he were to come to market.”
▪ Sunday’s game is the only one in the series that starts at 8 p.m., not 8:30.
AROUND THE DIAL
▪ The Panthers-Las Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final will be simulcast on both TNT and TBS – except for Game 5, which will air on TNT and truTV.
TNT’s lead team of Kenny Albert, Ed Olczyk and Keith Jones will be supplemented by Darren Pang, who’s traditionally a game analyst but will add to the broadcasts as a game commentator/reporter.
TNT and Bally Sports Florida (Steve Goldstein, Randy Moller) each will carry postgame shows.
▪ The Big 10’s new TV contracts with NBC and CBS created some double takes when the early season college football schedule was released this week.
Fox often gets the best Big 10 game each week (in the noon window), and that leaves NBC’s new prime time Big 10 package in an unenviable spot on weeks where there aren’t many appealing games.
Case in point: On Sept. 9, NBC must settle for Charlotte against Maryland at 7:30 — one of the most lackluster prime-time matchups, on a national non-cable network, in college football history.
NBC’s first year of Big 10 prime-time games debuts with West Virginia-Penn State on Sept. 2.
Meanwhile, CBS will carry Big 10 games at 3:30 p.m. every Saturday beginning in 2024, when SEC rights move exclusively to ABC/ESPN.
Because CBS has one more season of SEC games at 3:30 p.m., it had to find time slots for eight Big 10 games on its 2023 schedule, the first year of its Big 10 contract.
Because CBS doesn’t begin airing SEC games until the third week of the season, the network will carry 3:30 Big 10 games on Sept. 2 (Indiana-Ohio State) and Sept. 9 (UNLV-Michigan). CBS also has Iowa-Penn State in prime time Sept. 23.